Iraq midfielder Yaser Kasim said he is ready to start “a new page” after ending his self-imposed exile from international football.
The English-based midfielder made the decision to retire from the international game more than a year ago, but he is now back in the squad under coach Basim Qasim and poised to make his first appearance for his country since September 2016 when Iraq host Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
“God willing, it’s a new page and we play a good game,” he said in a press conference. “The time is right for me to return, and the schedule of the coach and we’ll do something good for the national team. I am happy that I’ve returned to the national side and there aren’t any problems with the national team. I came to train. I am relaxed and ready to train and play, that’s the most important thing. I thank the people in the FA that brought me and I thank the coach.”
The 26-year-old has turned down several national team call ups under former coach Radhi Shanaishel and the current Iraq coach Basim Qasim, seemingly preferring instead to concentrate on his career in England. He also went AWOL during the country’s preparations for the Rio Olympics. He was called up as one of three coverage players for the tournament but he left the training camp in Europe and never returned.
“I apologize that I could not come before and there are no problems or problem,” he said. “I’ve come to train and play matches.”
He is in line to play some part against Saudi Arabia at the Basra International Stadium as Amjad Atwan is injured.
“This is my first time in Basra and with the new coach Basim Qasim and we’ll train and we’ll play a good match and link-up with the players and have fun in the matches,” he said. “I send my greetings to the fans.”
Born in Baghdad, Kasim spent his youth career at Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur and has played at Brighton, Luton, Macclesfield, Swindon and now Northampton Town. He was on the verge of moving to Swansea in 2016 for £1 million ($1.4 million). He has won 18 international caps and was the star for Iraq at the 2015 Asian Cup when they finished fourth.